How To Use Stories In Public Speaking

stories in public speaking

I was looking forward to a class at a seminar and had admired the speaker from afar. She had a great track record in sales, and I wanted to find out what she had to say in person.

It was the most boring thing I’d ever witnessed. I wasted an hour with her hemming, hawing, and rambling. She had no stories and, apparently, no coherent thoughts. I found out later she had been propping her area up, buying her own products so she could earn the car bonus from the company.

Ever been to a lecture with a person who doesn’t believe in telling stories? You might have been to a few of these in high-school or college.

It’s boring with a capital B.

A speech without stories is a wasted opportunity.

No stories=no emotions. No stories mean your lecture won’t last past your audience’s next latte.

Great speakers are also great storytellers. Telling the story and making it stick is essential.

So let’s face it, you might not be the best storyteller in the world. You might not be aware of which stories resonate and which will flop like a big lead balloon.

Stories have a few elements; they have characters, they have a beginning a middle and end.

Good stories have details, but not too many details. You’ll need to be aware of what to leave it and what to take out. Copywriters or speech-writers write most great speeches. But with a little guidance, you can reach new heights in your address by choosing the best stories to tell.

Stories ARE POWERFUL. They connect and entertain. Those stories warm your audience and make them more receptive to everything else you want to say!

So what stories do you want to include?

Do you start from the day you were born and continue through your awkward middle school years?

Please, no. You’ll need to come up with three different stories for your signature speech. You won’t be using them all, don’t worry, but mine them first so you can make sure you have the right ones for the right speech.

Stories should be;


Do you have a “hook” that will catch your audience’s attention right away? Is the story something you would want to hear? Is it funny or emotional? Does it represent a loss and redemption? Is it about something you discovered?

Pique your audiences’ curiosity and be compelling.


Ask yourself WHY. Why this story for this speech? What does it teach? Or how does this story illustrate your point? Draw your conclusions first. If the story doesn’t have a purpose, take it out.

Filled With Vivid descriptions/Strong Emotional Language.

Use the strongest emotional language possible. Instead of beautiful, use, “exquisite.” Instead of large, use, “gargantuan.” Don’t use statistics in your story unless necessary. Paint your picture like an artist, use bold strokes and bright, colorful language.

Filled with characters other than you.

Fill your stories with other characters. If you are the main character, be sure to feature other people and tell how you overcame, rather than bragging about yourself.

Filled With Emotion.

Decide which emotion to use. Which emotion do you want your audience to feel? Sad, elated, happy, excited, motivated, encouraged? Make sure your story elicits the feeling you want your audience to feel.


Edit details. Pick and choose which parts of the story to keep. And keep your stories brief.

Telling a fantastic story means grabbing your audience’s attention, connecting with them, and providing a satisfying conclusion.

When you start speaking live, the main thing to remember is to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Would you like to hear this story? Would you be changed, entertained or motivated? If not, change it up.

Remember, your speech and message should be all about your audience. Keep your audience in the center of your remarks and your stories will always be the right stories at the right time.

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LeighAnn Heil